Thursday, 11 February 2010

Goodbye Guatemala

Green-throated Mountain-Gem, one of 13 hummingbird species logged during the trip.

All good things must come to an end, and so it was today with Guatemala. We had time to bird in the morning at Cerro Alux, a forested hill in the city where several species were added to the trip list, not least the retiring Blue-throated Motmot and the Blackbird-like Black Thrush. Back at the hotel, while waiting for the shuttle bus to the airport, our final trip tick fell in the form of Azure-crowned Hummingbird, another nice find by Bill.

At this stage in the proceedings everyone is always ready to go home, but dreading the long return trip - especially since we flew south first for one and a half hours to Panama, breaking our journey there for an hour before the 12-plus hours on board as we headed across the Atlantic to Madrid. That gave us some time to begin trying to identify some of the more cryptic flycatchers we had seen - Guatemala is home to at least eight Empidonax species in winter, and not all of the birds we saw were readily identifiable in the field. Analysing images to confirm features is a lengthy process, and it wasn't long before primary projections, wing-bars and eyerings brought pressure on our own eyelids ... another project for another time, maybe on ID-Frontiers.

In the meantime, having shared over 200 species and much more between the three of us during the past week, Bill Oddie and I wished Laurens Steijn all the best in Madrid and headed back to London together, saying our own farewells at Heathrow. In due course I'll be writing a feature on Guatemala for Birdwatch, and will have the chance to relive some of these highlights all over again. But thanks once more to our host for the Sixth International Birdwatching Encounter, Ana Cristina, and also to Omar Méndez for his guiding skill and great company during the trip - it must make a change for him from gigging and signing autographs (see YouTube for more on his band, Viernes Verde - Green Friday in Spanish).

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